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The precipice.

13 Mar

Everyone I know is pregnant.

Okay, not everyone. But a great many people that I know personally are currently hosting occupants in their uteri. Which is cool. I no longer feel that familiar, infertility-induced twinge of pain when I get that news. There is a twinge of something though.

I think it’s because, when your kid reaches a certain age, it’s only natural to address the question of number two. If it didn’t occur to you first, it certainly did after you’ve been questioned about it for the millionth time, and questioned you will be.

The thing is, I can’t easily answer that question for people without going into all the caveats, nuances and traumas that influence that answer. Do we want another child? Yes, but.

Yes, but we don’t know if we can conceive on our own. Yes, but we are worried that ART played a role in J’s birth defect. Yes, but we are still slightly traumatized by my pregnancy, J’s birth, and her infancy. Yes, but we don’t know when the time is right. Yes, but part of me wants to wait until J is more aware of her impending big sister status, and we can enjoy that excitement together.

Still, I feel my heart calling for number two. I crave a newborn, and all the typical newborn things I didn’t get with J. I want another chance at a healthy pregnancy and a natural delivery.

But I know that there are no guarantees. We may face secondary infertility and we may have to do IVF again. I may get pre-eclampsia again and I may have to have another cesarean. The baby might not be totally healthy and we might have to spend more than a few days in the hospital.

Five months ago, I became unexpectedly pregnant. We were not trying. But then again, we never knew why we struggled to conceive. So I took it as a gift. It scared the sh*t out of me, but it was a gift. And then spotting led to an ultrasound led to an ectopic diagnosis led to a shot that didn’t work led to increasing hCG led to please take my tube out before it bursts and I bleed out internally, which ultimately led to surgery to remove my right tube.

And honestly? I’m glad it’s gone. I realized that it might have been the problem, or part of the problem at least, all along. During my initial IF workup, they couldn’t see my right tube. They chalked it up to a muscle spasm, or something along those lines, but who knows.

So that’s where I stand. Wanting, but afraid. Somewhat of a precipice, but maybe it just feels that way. From here, I’ll have to just see which way the wind blows.


And, one.

21 May

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?

My baby is one today. A year ago, I was sitting in my room at the hospital, reeling from my OB’s news that she was planning to deliver our baby boy that day, because my preeclampsia was escalating and they needed time to plan the transfer to Children’s. He would be going almost immediately into surgery, we knew that much.

In daylights, in sunsets,
In midnights, in cups of coffee,
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

But as we know, it didn’t turn out quite as we planned. He was a she. A gorgeous, happy, resilient, amazing little she. The she I had dreamed of. A year ago, at this very moment, I didn’t know what was in store for me. Hours upon days upon weeks to spend waiting in the hospital. Learning a new language, a new family, a new life.

I look back with nostalgia for that time just before we became a family of three, and sadness for what the me of a year ago had in store in the months ahead. The angst and tears and Everest of worry I know she will go through, and endless runs to Starbucks. And walks in the garden. And laps around the floor, Juniper in her Baby Bjorn, and me wheeling her pumps alongside us.

How about love?
Measure in love.

How do I measure the past year? Not in the giant pile of batteries that have powered her pumps, powered her, in fact. Not in syringes, dressing changes, IV bags, sterile gloves, doctor’s appointments, x-rays, surgeries, meds, none of that. All that is part of our story and our reality still, and I appreciate it all, but it’s not what matters.

I measure the year in how much she has grown and blossomed. How she has thrived. How she has overcome. And I measure it in how much I’ve grown and thrived and overcome, and my husband too. I measure it in how much love and closeness we have. The utter joy we feel when we’re all together. The rightness and the destiny of it.

Needless to say, it’s been a hell of year. The absolute most trying of my life. And the absolute BEST.

Here’s to ONE. And two, and three, and four, and five, and the lifetime.

Here’s to her. I love her beyond measure or comprehension.

Hospital bags: check!

7 May

We managed to get our hospital bags about as packed as possible (save for a few last minute items) this weekend, which felt like a huge weight off my shoulders. I am not sure why but the idea of packing a hospital bag was so daunting and anxiety-inducing to me. I didn’t know what to bring, didn’t want to bring the wrong things, not have enough of something or bring stuff in vain. There are a million “what to pack” lists out there but ultimately it seems so subjective.

Bag of choice: LeSportsac overnight bag

Bag of choice: LeSportsac overnight bag

For the most part, the purpose of packing a hospital bag is to have the comfort of your own things, which helps to humanize the experience a little bit. Packing a hospital bag is the same as packing any overnight bag, you need mainly need clothes, underthings, toiletries, shoes, and a few extras like a camera, pad and notebook, perhaps a book, etc. With this bag though, you just have to take into account that you’ll also be giving birth to another human being and undergoing some major physical changes while away. No big deal, right?

Maybe I was also stressed out because I’m not sure what’s going to happen after I’m discharged, if I’ll just go straight to Children’s and start living there (we can be in a dorm there while he’s in the NICU) or whether I’ll go home to sleep/recover. It’s still unclear and that’s just something we have to play by ear, but luckily my parents will be here to help manage these details. So I decided just to pack for my hospital stay, planning for a four-night c-section stay since we’re just three weeks out now and Turtle still hasn’t turned (and I just have a feeling he won’t).

So here’s our packing list:

For me
-Copies of birth plan on colored paper
-Toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, face wash, mousse, nail file, eye drops, pads, lip balm, razor, makeup remover, loofah
-Hair stuff: brush, straightener, hair ties
-Maternity or larger underwear (4)
-Bras (2)
-Bathrobe (1)
-Nightgown (1)
-Slippers (1)
-Flip flops (1)
-Socks (3 – 1 comfy, 2 regular)
-Book to read
-Discharge outfit – maxi dress, chambray shirt
-Comfy pants (1)
-Comfy shirts (1)
-Additional dress

For Hubby
-Pants (2)
-Shirts (2-3)
-Comfy pants (1)
-Sleep shirt (1)
-Flip flops for shower (1)
-Shoes (1)
-Underwear (4)

For Turtle
-Hats (3)
-Socks (4)
-Snap shirts (3)
-Swaddling blanket (1)
-Soothy (1)
-Baby legs (1)

-Laptop/charger/internet cable (for spotty wi-fi)
-Phone chargers

Packing for a c-section is easier in one regard because you don’t have to bring birth aids like relaxation items. But on the other hand, you do have to pack things that allow for your incision to heal, hence the dresses, nightgown, robe, etc.

Hospital bag toiletries

Hospital bag toiletries

Here are some things I did to make the process easier: first of all, I made a list based on what I thought would work for me. I also bought almost all new things for the bag, so I wouldn’t have to worry about packing things that I currently use every day. All my toiletries are travel sized, either bought for the bag or picked from my stash. I went out and bought travel eye drops because I heard your eyes can get quite dry in the hospital. I even bought a new loofah and packed my spare razor. The only two last minute personal care items are my straightener (not buying another one of those!) and my hairbrush (I only have one).

Pads and comfort items for Turtle

Pads and comfort items for Turtle

I read that it can be nicer to have your own pads for the post-birth bleeding vs. using the hospital ones so I bought some Always heavy duty overnight ones and packaged them together in a freezer bag. I also put all of Turtle’s things that have been washed with special baby detergent together in a bag. Almost all of his needs will be met by the hospital, so these are mostly just nice little personal things to have for him. He definitely needs to have some cute hats for the 10 million pictures that will be snapped of him.


Discharge outfit: maxi dress (new, Target), chambray shirt (old, Madewell)

In terms of technology, we decided not to bring a separate camera and just keep it easy with iPhone pictures that can be easily sent around and shared. I do want to bring a laptop so I can blog, we can watch Netflix (our hospital room actually has a VCR, if you can believe it!), etc. But for the most part, our smartphones will be our main devices for calls, pictures, blogging, listening to music, sharing picture/information, etc.

Don't forget the obligatory hospital cat, I prefer an orange tabby with a 'tude

Don’t forget the obligatory hospital cat, I prefer an orange tabby with a ‘tude

Some things we didn’t pack that others recommend include pillows and blankets. We have very large, heavy, memory foam pillows that would be a pain to lug to the hospital, honestly. Things like cash and coins can be obtained at the hospital, as can snacks. All breastfeeding supplies will be supplied by the hospital. A few things aren’t on this list because they’re always in my purse, like my makeup, ID, insurance card, etc.  Overall, we’d rather have the bags be on the smaller side so they’re more manageable when the time comes.

All done! My bag and DH's bag

All done! My bag and DH’s bag

All we have left to pack now are: copies of the birth plan, hair brush and straightener, Turtle’s notebook and pen, and our laptop bag. It is some small measure of comfort knowing that almost everything is either available at the hospital, or at a nearby drugstore. You can survive even if you don’t bring anything to the hospital at all. But having your own stuff make the process that much easier.

Do hospital bags stress you out too? What are your hospital bag must haves? Anything I’m missing?

ps. Our weekly ultrasound looked pretty good yesterday and we’re good to go another week. Still on track for a 5/28/13 Cesarean birth as Turtle still has not turned. I’ve completely made my peace with it and now just can’t wait for him to get here, however he is meant to arrive. Thanks all for the kind words about Turtle’s 3D picture… they honestly made me blush like a proud mama!


24 Apr

I’m still trying to process the results of our appointments on Monday, hence the delay in my posting.

The good news is, Turtle is still growing right on track (even a little ahead). His dilations have not grown very much. His bowel is still moving, still appears to be alive. My amniotic fluid level is still good. He seems to be getting enough oxygen and he passed the non-stress test with flying colors. And my blood pressure is great. That’s the good stuff.

The less good is that he’s still in a breech position and we learned that with his condition, he cannot be delivered vaginally if he’s breech, nor should we attempt a version. We also learned, after a couple weeks of getting ourselves a little psyched up at the prospect of a natural birth, that Dr. Kind will want him to come out when we hit full term (37 weeks). His reasoning is, he’s full term, he’s big enough, let’s get him out and deal with the gastroschisis.

We were a bit surprised to hear this, as all along he had been saying that he wanted to get to “at least 36 weeks if not much more.” I’m not sure what changed, since he even said something along those lines at our last appointment two weeks prior. It could be the fact that he still has these bigger dilations that aren’t going down.

Either way, that means a scheduled cesarean if he remains breech, or a scheduled induction if he turns. Now lately I’ve been feeling very much like I don’t want a c-section at all. Like the very thought scared me, of lying on that table, belly sliced open, and not getting all the hormonal and emotional benefits of a natural birth. It seemed like it would make the journey that much harder, emotionally, when he is taken away.

However, I’m not thrilled at the idea of an induction either, as I’ve been reading so much about how the contractions are more painful, how you’re tied to your IV, how sometimes it fails, how it leads to more interventions and can end up leading to a c-section anyways. I don’t know why I was thinking I might be able to go into labor on my own but it’s pretty clear that unless my body magically kicks into labor fairly early, that won’t be the case.

At first this felt very devastating. Dr. Caring, while understanding that this is not the birth we wanted, went ahead and reserved OR space for us on May 28th (37w3d), which felt very scary and real indeed (that’s less than five weeks away!). The more I’ve thought about it though, the less sure I feel about anything.

I’m thinking maybe it is a good idea to take him out at that time, maybe he’s safer here in the outside world than risking fetal death (this is a fear of mine, though not directly related to anything in particular, other than once hearing that the risk of this is slightly increased – very slightly – with gastroschisis). I’m thinking maybe a scheduled c-section isn’t that bad. It definitely appeals to the planner in me. And I’ve heard that going in for a scheduled c-section can mean a better recovery, vs. being induced then ending up with a c-section anyways due to stress on the baby, not dilating quickly enough, etc. I’ve heard too that a c-section recovery isn’t necessarily that bad.

So now I’m really confused. I don’t know what to hope for anymore. I know whatever the experience ends up being is secondary to whatever is best for Turtle. I’m trying to focus on that. But do I want him to turn and then open up the possibility of an induction, which scares me? (Scared of the painful contractions, scared of maybe having to get an epidural, scared of being hooked up to all the machines, scared of ending up in the operating room anyways after all.) Or do I want him to stay breech and go with the scheduled c-section, which also scares me?

Do we stick with our doula, if it’s looking like we’ll be having a scheduled c-section? Knowing she will NOT be able to accompany me into the operating room? Is it worth the cost of her full fee if she’s not providing actual labor support or should we come up with some hybrid fee for prenatal (and perhaps postnatal as well) counseling? We are meeting with her this weekend to discuss these things.

So yeah, I’m confused. And I hate not knowing what’s coming. But in some ways it is nice to know that sometime during the last week of May is most likely when Turtle will be here. And then the healing can begin.

ps. New updates on the Turtle page, including (giant) belly shot from today!

Finding a doula

15 Apr

A few weeks ago, in the midst of my approaching birth anxieties, a seed was planted that perhaps we should look into hiring a doula.

What is a doula? A doula is a female birth assistant or labor companion. She is present at the birth to assist the laboring mother with anything she needs, providing physical comforts, emotional support, suggesting relaxation techniques or optimal positions, and providing information. For those having hospital births, doulas can help couples navigate the medical system: interpreting jargon, helping refuse unnecessary interventions, helping keep the birthing space sacred and setting boundaries with staff and family members. Studies have shown that the presence of a doula can help shorten labor and avoid unnecessary procedures.

I had planned to look into hiring a doula should we ever have a homebirth, but hadn’t even considered it for our certain hospital birth until Belle suggested that it might really help me. I was (and am) feeling so much anxiety over not knowing how it will go (I always want to know how things will go). Will I be able to go into labor naturally? Will I have to be induced? Will I be able to try for a natural birth? Will I have to have a C-section? And if I try for a natural birth, will I be able to manage it with the stress and emotions of the hospital and of Turtle’s condition?

A doula can help with all of those things, so we decided to look into it. The next question though was, can we afford it? As I quickly found out, the going rate for doulas in the Boston area is $1,200. That’s much higher than what we were comfortable paying, primarily because we don’t know how long Turtle will need to spend in the hospital and if he stays there longer than three months, I might need to look into taking a leave of absence or, worst case scenario, quitting my job. Knowing that’s a possibility, we want to keep as much of a savings cushion in the bank account as possible.

So I just started emailing. I found doulas and if they listed their fee and it was above our price range (we were aiming for $600), I asked if they could help point me in the right direction. I figured there must be someone out there who would be willing to help us out, and potentially drop their fee. As it turns out, there are plenty! One doula posted our request to a doula message board which generated about five or six inquiries. Another doula put out our request to her network which resulted in three or four others. Almost all of them were willing to drop their fees to accommodate our needs, which we so appreciated.

At some point it got overwhelming, dealing with all the inquiries, so I just started with the first few people who had responded to me and went from there. I talked on the phone with one doula and we met with another, neither of whom felt like a good fit. Then I heard from J, who has been a professional doula for 18 years and has attended over 430 births. I honestly was blown away and didn’t think we’d have an opportunity to work with such an experienced doula. I also heard from K, who showed such a sensitivity to our situation over email.

When I talked to J on the phone, we had a good, professional conversation and I remained impressed by her experience and professionalism. J normally charges $1,200 but said she drops her fee a few times a year for those with a “true need” and was willing to drop it for us. I wasn’t sure if we had a “true need” but I explained our situation and she was comfortable dropping it. The next step would be for us to meet in person, however she said she would charge $50 (normally $100) for the initial in person meeting. I told her I’d let her know after we talked to a few more doulas.

When I talked to K on the phone, I felt like she really got it. She talked about viewing our birth as the beginning of the healing process for Turtle, which I never thought of but it immediately helped me just to frame it that way in my mind. Our conversation was long and easy and it was clear that we had a great connection. She also lives about five minutes away, so we planned to meet in person a week later.

The catch was, K has only assisted about 10 births, not including the few years she spent in training in China, where she witnessed many births, primarily induced births. Two of the births she’s attended were C-sections, and she’s had two C-sections herself. I talked to some of J’s recommendations and one admitted that while she didn’t “super click” with J right away, and while her husband never really even liked her (!), they were so impressed with her experience that they hired her. And they didn’t regret it, they’d hire her again.

So all week I have been struggling with experience vs. connection. I interviewed another doula who it turns out we can’t work with because of her schedule, but I asked her opinion on the matter and she said connection matters more than experience. This was what I was wanting to hear, I realized. Giving birth is one of the most intimate, special, biggest moments in your life and it’s a big deal choosing who will be there. This objective doula also pointed out that for an experienced doula, we’d just be another birth under her belt, whereas for a newer doula who is still passionate and not at all jaded, this would be an important and unforgettable experience for her.

The moment of truth came yesterday when we met K in person. She showed up prepared with a whole folder of info, including a questionnaire to see if we were a good fit (including questions like, are you an introvert or an extrovert? And, how do you handle stress?). The connected feeling continued and it was clear that while she wasn’t very experienced, she was very smart, savvy and passionate. Her fee is $650, but she is offering us free placenta encapsulation and two extra hours of postpartum support, plus she’s willing to be on call for two extra weeks, all due to our circumstances.

When we left, we agreed right away to end the search process and just go ahead with K. We both liked her that much. So that’s the long and the short of it. We have a doula! And I’m already feeling better about accepting our birth for whatever it will be, though now I’m hoping more than ever that it can be vaginal and unmedicated.

In the meantime, DH and I are both reading (well, I’m re-reading) Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth – which I highly recommend to all. While some sections of it I don’t agree with (like the idea that maybe you shouldn’t get an ultrasound at all), there is SO much helpful information about easing the labor process. I’m so glad I have this info to supplement the childbirth prep class we took over the weekend, which talked all about the sheer pain of childbirth, how awesome epidurals are, and where I was the only one who admitted wanting to try for a natural birth.

I haven’t been blogging as much lately as things are sort of slowing down in these last 6-8 weeks here. Kind of feels like the quiet before the storm. Everything we can possibly do has, for the most part, been done. Now we just have lots of monitoring appointments to go to and daily encouragement of Turtle to TURN. (Please, please, please.) But I do plan to share our nursery with you in the days ahead, so stay tuned for that! We’ve been working so hard to create a special place for Turtle to come home to… one day.

Have any of you thought of or had experience with hiring a doula? Did you have to make a choice between experience and connection? How did you decide?